Barcelona Photoblog

May 13, 2023

Unruled Mass Tourism or an Oasis in the Gothic Quarter?

Tourists in Sant Felip Neri square at Gothic quarter, Barcelona

Barcelona is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, and for good reason. With its stunning architecture, vibrant culture, and delicious food, it's no wonder that people from all over the globe flock to this city every year.

However, mass tourism has its downsides. One of the biggest problems is that it can be overwhelming. The streets of Barcelona can be packed with people, making it difficult to move around or even find a place to sit down. This can be especially frustrating for those who are looking for a more peaceful and relaxing experience.

If you're looking for a way to escape the hustle and bustle of mass tourism, the Gothic Quarter is the perfect place for you. This historic district is located in the heart of Barcelona, and it's home to narrow streets, winding alleyways, and charming squares. It's the perfect place to wander aimlessly and get lost in the beauty of the city. Or was it?

Of course, the Gothic Quarter is not immune to mass tourism. However, it's much less crowded than other parts of Barcelona, and it's easy to find quiet spots to relax and enjoy the atmosphere. If you're looking for a more authentic Barcelona experience, the Gothic Quarter is the place to be. Unless you come across scenes like the one above which can happen every now and then when cruise ships unleash heavy loads of adventurous ‘predators’ on a hunting spree around the already strained city.

Nonetheless, let us look on the bright side of life! Here are some tips for enjoying the Gothic Quarter without the crowds:

  • Visit during the off-season. The Gothic Quarter is most crowded during the summer months, so if you can, try to visit during the spring or fall.
  • Get up early. The Gothic Quarter is much quieter in the morning before the crowds arrive.
  • Explore the side streets. The main streets of the Gothic Quarter are always crowded, but if you venture off the beaten path, you'll find much quieter areas.
  • Visit during the week. The Gothic Quarter is busier on weekends, so if you can, try to visit during the week.
  • Take a break from the crowds. If you're feeling overwhelmed by the crowds, take a break from the Gothic Quarter and explore other parts of Barcelona.

The Gothic Quarter is a beautiful and historic district that's well worth a visit. By following these tips, you can enjoy the Gothic Quarter without the crowds and experience the best of Barcelona.

However, no one said that escaping the stark reality by sticking one’s head in Barri Gotic like an ostrich in the sand is the final solution to our problems with tourism. Pretending not to see that Barcelona is losing its balance by suggesting visitors to spot an empty oasis is to do a favor to the apathy and incompetence of our local authorities.

If we want to enjoy the beauty of Barcelona streets doing justice to the peaceful atmosphere that its inhabitants had in mind when they built it then we should see that there are strict rules and laws to punish the bad actors so we can be good hosts to our visitors as we always have been.

The entrance to Sant Felip Neri square, Gothic quarter, Barcelona

May 05, 2023

How Artificial Intelligence is Transforming Barcelona

AI in Barcelona: The Future

Barcelona is a city that embraces innovation and creativity, and artificial intelligence (AI) is no exception. In recent years, Barcelona has become a hub for AI research and development, attracting talent, investment and projects from all over the world.

One of the reasons why Barcelona is such a hotbed for AI is because of its strong academic and research institutions. The city is home to two of the top universities in Spain: the Universitat de Barcelona and the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya. These universities have strong programs in computer science, mathematics, and engineering, which are all essential for AI research.

In addition to its academic institutions, Barcelona is also home to a number of AI startups. These startups are developing a variety of AI-powered products and services, including healthcare applications, financial services applications, and marketing applications.

Barcelona is also a popular destination for AI talent from around the world. The city is known for its relaxed lifestyle, its Mediterranean climate, and its vibrant culture. These factors make Barcelona an attractive place to live and work for AI professionals.

In this blog post, I will explore some of the ways in which AI is transforming Barcelona, from improving public services and urban mobility, to fostering ethical and inclusive use of data and algorithms.

AI for public services and urban mobility

One of the main goals of Barcelona's digital strategy is to use AI to improve public services and urban mobility, making the city more efficient, sustainable and responsive to citizens' needs. For example, Barcelona is using AI to optimize waste management, traffic control, public transport, energy consumption and air quality. Some of the projects that illustrate this are:

- Nennisiwok Artificial Intelligence Lab, a company that develops AI solutions for smart cities, such as a system that uses computer vision and deep learning to detect and classify waste in real time, helping to reduce littering and increase recycling rates.

- Microsoft's R&D hub in Spain, focused on applying AI models to improve user experience on the web. The hub is located in Barcelona and is part of Microsoft's WebXT division, which contributes to the development of multiple products, including Windows, Azure and Bing.

- LOGISTAR, a European project that uses AI to optimize the European supply chain, reducing costs, emissions and congestion. The project involves several partners from Spain, including the Artificial Intelligence Research Institute (IIIA-CSIC), which is based in Barcelona and conducts basic research in AI.

AI for ethics and inclusion

Another key aspect of Barcelona's digital strategy is to promote the ethical and inclusive use of AI, ensuring that data and algorithms respect citizens' digital rights and do not discriminate or harm anyone. To achieve this, Barcelona has developed several initiatives, such as:

- The Municipal strategy on algorithms and data to ethically drive artificial intelligence, a government measure that lays down the mechanisms for applying AI to municipal management and services while respecting citizens' digital rights. The measure includes principles such as transparency, accountability, privacy, security, diversity and non-discrimination.

- The Decidim platform, an open source software that enables participatory democracy and collective intelligence. The platform uses AI to analyze and cluster citizens' proposals, comments and votes, facilitating deliberation and decision making.

- The WeNet project, a European project that aims to create a platform for social networking based on diversity-aware AI. The project involves several partners from Spain, including IIIA-CSIC, which leads the research on diversity-aware machine learning.

AI for creativity and culture

Finally, Barcelona is also using AI to foster creativity and culture, enhancing the city's artistic and cultural heritage with innovative technologies. Some of the examples of this are:

- Play & Sing, a project that uses AI to help people with brain injuries recover their musical abilities. The project is led by IIIA-CSIC in collaboration with Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau.

- Gutenberg y ChatGPT, a project that uses AI to generate interactive stories based on classic literature. The project is developed by IIIA-CSIC in collaboration with Universitat Pompeu Fabra.

- Numerales, a project that uses AI to create numerical art based on mathematical concepts. The project is developed by IIIA-CSIC in collaboration with Escola Massana.

Artificial Intelligence is transforming Barcelona in many ways, making it a smarter, more sustainable, more democratic and more creative city. Barcelona is committed to being at the forefront of AI innovation, while ensuring that it serves the common good and respects human dignity.

As AI continues to grow, Barcelona is well-positioned to become a global leader in the field. The city has all of the ingredients necessary for success: strong academic institutions, a vibrant startup scene, and a talented workforce.

September 12, 2022

Sant Jordi Fountain Faucet at Barcelona Cathedral Cloister

La Font de Sant Jordi (Saint George Fountain), of which Barcelona Photoblog brings you this faucet detail, is one of the most renown fountains in the city as it is part of the impressive cloister at Barcelona Cathedral, perhaps the second most visited sacred place after Sagrada Familia. 

Although the gothic Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia, built in 150 years, is appealing enough once you set foot on the main nave it wouldn't be that remarkable without its cloister, a well-balanced quiet place, where light, water plants, magnolias, palm trees, geese and medieval fountains create that utmost joyous design that we now prefer to call feng shui. 

The fountain as such, crowned by a 1970 figure (by Emili Colom) of Sant Jordi on his horse on top of a mossy rock, was built under the supervision of architect Andreu Escuder in 1449. Nevertheless, the water was spouting here directly from the mountain of Collserola since 1356. 

This octogonal shaped architectural piece is no ordinary fountain, not only because of these beautiful faucets with intriguing faces that might as well represent archangels or demons on whose rump a small kid figure seems to be riding a bird or a horse (this can be the subject of rivers of ink for an unleashed imagination), but because since 1637 during every Corpus Christi Feast it is adorned with flowers and an empty egg that dances frantically on the water jet. Such tradition is known as L'ou com balla (previous post).

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